MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota got off to a sluggish start in its final non-conference game versus North Dakota State, but the Gophers were able to rally for a 63-59 win versus the Bison to improve to 12-1.
Senior center Ralph Sampson III led all scorers with 15 points for the Gophers, while junior forward Rodney Williams added 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds, and sophomore guard Maverick Ahanmisi recorded a career-high 13 points by making all four field goals he attempted.
The Gophers were playing their first game since defeating Central Michigan on Dec. 13, and North Dakota State (8-3) took advantage of that long layoff by Minnesota, jumping out to a 14-2 lead in the game.
But the Gophers rallied with a 17-5 run, which included 10 points from Sampson and a highlight reel dunk by Williams, to knot the score at 19-19.
The teams then traded baskets, with Ahanmisi twice tying the score with three-pointers before the Gophers took a late lead and went to the locker room with a 32-29 halftime advantage.
Minnesota opened the second half by outscoring the Bison 9-3 over the first four minutes to stretch its lead to 41-32. But NDSU responded by scoring eight of the next 10 points to pull back within 43-40 before junior guard Julian Welch made a three-pointer from in front of the Minnesota bench to put the Gophers back up by six.
The Bison kept pressing, though, resuming the lead at 53-52 on a driving layup by Taylor Braun. But Minnesota was able to retake a 56-53 lead on a three-point play by Ahanmisi, and the Gophers made enough free throws down the stretch to secure the victory and remain undefeated (10-0) at home this season.
NDSU was led by Braun's 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Dylan Hale added 13 points, and Lawrence Alexander had 11 points. It was the second consecutive narrow setback on the road for the Bison, who lost at Arizona State by a 60-57 score on Dec. 10. NDSU defeated Mayville State, 92-50, in Fargo on Dec. 17.
The Gophers will now turn their focus to the start of Big Ten play. Minnesota opens with a pair of games on the road, kicking things off at Illinois next Tuesday (Dec. 27). Game time is set for 6:30 p.m. (CT) in Champaign, and the game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.